"Of a truth this man would have surpassed us all if he had had the master-pieces of art constantly before him."
"Hardly any master has scattered with so lavish a hand all that the soul has conceived of fervid feeling or pathos, all that thought has grasped of what is strong or sublime, all that the imagination has conceived of poetic wealth; in no one has the depth and power of the German genius been so gloriously revealed as in him."
"He was content to be a precious corner-stone in the edifice of German Art, the future grandeur of which he could only foresee."
|—Richard Ford Heath|
In our study of the great artists so far, we have found that each glorified some particular city and that, whatever other treasures that city may have had in the past, it is the recollections of its great artist that hallow it most deeply today. Thus, to think of Antwerp is to think instantly of Rubens. Leyden and Amsterdam as quickly recall to our minds the name of Rembrandt. Seville without Murillo would lose its chief charm, while Urbino is Raphael and, without the revered name of the painter, would seldom draw the visitor to its secluded precincts.
To the quaintest of European cities the name of Albrecht Durer instinctively carries us—to Nuremberg.
"That ancient, free, imperial town,
Forever fair and young."
Were we to study Durer without first viewing his venerable city which he so deeply loved all his life that no promise of gain from gorgeous Venetian court or from wealthy Antwerp burgers could detain him long from home, we should leave untouched a delightful subject and one deeply inwoven in the life and thought of the artist. Were we to omit a brief consideration of his time and the way the German mind looked at things and naturally represented them in words and in pictures, we should come away from Durer impressed only with his great homely figures and faces and wondering why, in every list of the great artists of the world, Durer's name should stand so high.
Having these things in mind, it will not then seem so far away to speak of Nuremberg and Luther before we rehearse the things which make up the life of Albrecht Durer.
Nuremberg does not boast a very early date, for she began her existence just after the year one thousand when men, finding out surely that the end of the world was not come, took as it were a new lease of life. The thing she does boast is that her character as a mediæval town has been almost perfectly preserved up to the present day.
There were many things which made Nuremberg an important city in early times. She was conveniently located for traders who shipped vast amounts of merchandise from Venice to the great trade centers in the Netherlands. For many years she was a favorite city of the Emperor and here were kept the crown jewels which were displayed with great pomp once a year.
The country immediately about Nuremberg was sandy but carefully cultivated. There were also large banks of clay very useful to the citizens in the manufacture of pottery. Like the salt of Venice, it was a natural source of wealth to the citizens. Very early we find a paper mill here, and here, too, were set up some of the earliest printing presses. Perhaps the most interesting of the early wares of this enterprising city were the watches. The first made in the world were manufactured here and from their shape they were called "Nuremberg Eggs." We have a story that Charles V. had a watchmaker brought in a sedan chair all the way from Nuremberg that he might have his watch repaired. Here was manufactured the first gun-lock, and here was invented the valued metallic compound known as brass.
From all these sources the citizens grew rich, but their wealth did not make them forget their city. A little more than fifty years before Durer's birth, the Emperor being very much in need of money, they bought their freedom. For this they paid what would be, in our money, about a million of dollars. It was a goodly price, but they gave it freely. Then they destroyed the house where their governor or Burgrave had lived and they were henceforth ruled by a council selected from their own number.
The city lies on both sides of the river Pegnitz which divides it into two almost equal parts. The northern side is named from its great church, St. Sebald's, and the southern for that of St. Lawrence. Originally the city was enclosed by splendid ramparts. Three hundred and sixty-five towers broke the monotony of the extensive walls. Of these one hundred are still standing today. In days gone by, a moat thirty-five feet wide encircled the wall, but since peace has taken the place of war and security has come instead of hourly danger, the moat has been drained and thrifty kitchen gardens fill the space.
Within the city are some of the most beautiful buildings both private and public. Here, too, sculpture, which the Germans cultivated before they did painting, has left rare monuments. Among these last we must notice the wonderful shrine of St. Sebald in the church of the same name. For thirteen years Peter Vischer and his five sons labored on this work. Long it was to toil and vexing were the questions which arose in the progress of the work; but the result was a master-piece which stands alone among the art works of the world. Nor can we forget the foamy ciborium of the Church of St. Lawrence. For sixty-five feet this miracle of snowy marble rises in the air, growing more lacey at every step until, in its terminal portions, so delicate does it become that it seems like the very clouds in fleeciness.
Church doorways are carved with beautiful and fantastic forms by men whose names were long ago forgotten. Common dwellings are adorned with picturesque dormer windows. Even the narrow crooked streets hold their share of beauty, for here are fountains so exquisite in their workmanship that their like is not to be found elsewhere. Here it is the Beautiful Fountain, gay with sculptures of heroes and saints, and there it is the Little Gooseman's Fountain where humor is added to beauty. Through all the years stands the little man with a goose under either arm, patiently receiving his daily drenching. Still two other fountains known to fame send up their crystal waters to greet the light.
If we seek for more modern things we are also rewarded, for here in Durer Square stands Rauch's great statue of the artist, copied from Durer's portrait of himself in Vienna. We note the custom house, one of the oldest buildings, the town hall and the burg or castle, which for many years was the favorite residence of the Emperor.
Here, too, are many fine old houses which used to belong to noblemen of the city. It is not these residences that we seek, however, if we are visiting Nuremberg. We ask rather for the house of Hans Sachs, the cobbler poet, of John Palm, the fearless patriot, who gave his life for the privilege of beating Napoleon, and above all we seek that quaint house where Durer lived and worked. In choosing these as objects of our special attention we feel like Charles I., who said, when he compelled a reluctant courtier to hold Durer's ladder, "Man can make a nobleman, but only God can make an artist."
In our search for interesting things in old Nuremberg, we come suddenly upon a house bearing a tablet on which are these words, "Pilate's House." At first we are mystified, for was not Pilate's house in Jerusalem? But at once we recall that this is the house of the pious Jacob Ketzet who twice visited the Holy Land that he might measure exactly the distance from Pilate's house to Calvary. When he was satisfied with his measurements he returned to Nuremberg and commissioned the great sculptor, Adam Kraft, to carve "stations," as he called them, between his home and St. John's Cemetery to the northwest of the city. These "stations," which are merely stone pillars on which are carved in relief scenes from the sufferings of our Lord just before his death, are still standing, and if we go to Durer's grave, as I am sure we should wish to do, we shall pass them on our way.
The Nurembergers have long taken pride in the quaint appearance of their city, so that many of the newer houses are built in the old style with their gables to the street. As we note the patriotic spirit of the people and recount the beauties of the old city, we feel that Durer was warranted "in the deep love and affection that I have borne that venerable city, my fatherland," as he expressed it.
As to the time when Durer came into the world, it was truly a wonderful age in which to live! Less than twenty-five years after his birth, Columbus found a vast new world. People were already much agitated over the evil practices in the old established church. Durer knew and loved Luther and Melanchthon but he was quite as much attached to the scholarly Erasmus, who wished not to break away from the old church, but merely to correct its abuses. In short Durer belonged to the Conservative class which found it possible to accept the food in the new doctrines and retain the pure from the old without revolution. Such were the citizens of Nuremberg and thus did the ancient city as easily accept the new doctrines as she did the morning sunshine pouring in at her storied windows. Thus, too, were preserved the ancient buildings and institutions, which, through the wisdom of her citizens, were not called upon to withstand sieges and other military attacks.
Durer was above everything a true representative of the German people, and so we ought to take note of some of the qualities of the German mind. As Goethe, their greatest poet, says, one of their strongest characteristics is that of wishing to learn and to do rather than to enjoy. The Germans love truth and they do not stop short in their imaginings when they wish to drive it home. So in German art, the toiling man or woman is often accompanied by angels and demons, the equal of which were never pictured by any other people. The greatest extremes of beauty and ugliness have these people given in their art. In either extreme, however, thoughts on the deepest questions of human life are at the foundation.
On a summer's day in 1455, there wandered into the far-famed city of Nuremberg a young goldsmith from Hungary. The ramparts of the city with their towers and gateways, the splendid buildings enclosed, were like miracles to the youth. It was a fête day in celebration of the marriage of the son of a prominent citizen, Pirkheimer by name. Albrecht Durer, for that was the youth's name, long studied the gay throng, little thinking how in the future the name of his son and that of the bridegroom there would together be known to fame, the one as the greatest artist, the other as the most learned man of Nuremberg. The wandering youth was the father of our artist and the bridegroom was the father of Wilibald Pirkheimer, Durer's life long friend and companion.
The young goldsmith loved the city at once and, encouraged by the business activity of the place, he made it his permanent abode. He found employment with Hieronymus Holper, and soon married his master's comely daughter, Barbara. They resided in a little house which was a sort of appendage to the great house of Pirkheimer. A few months after a much longed for son came to bless the Pirkheimers, a little boy was born in the goldsmith's house whom they named, for his father, Albrecht Durer. As the years went by, seventeen other children came to the Durer home. Three only of all these children grew to maturity.
With such a family to support we can easily imagine that the father's life was a hard one. He was a pious and industrious man whom his illustrious son never tires of praising. In one place he says of him, "He had a great reputation with many who knew him, for he led an honorable Christian life, was a patient man, gentle, in peace with everyone and always thankful to God. He had no desire for worldly pleasures, was of few words, did not go into society and was a God-fearing man. Thus my dear father was most anxious to bring up his children to honor God. His highest wish was that his children should be pleasing to God and man; therefore he used to tell us every day that we should love God and be true to our neighbors."
Durer sorrowed deeply when his father died in 1502. On his death-bed he commended the mother to her son. Durer was faithful to his trust and cared tenderly for his mother until her death, several years later. Never did boy or man more faithfully keep the command, "Honor thy father and mother," than did our artist.
For many reasons Albrecht seemed to be his father's favorite child. We find him, in spite of numerous other cares, taking great pains with the boy's education. He taught him to read and write well and must have given him instruction in Latin. These were years when thirst for learning was abroad in the land. Free Latin schools were established to meet the needs. Durer's father was filled with this spirit and he communicated it to his son.
As was customary at the time, the son was trained to follow his father's trade and so he learned the goldsmith's art in his father's shop. It is said that in his tender years he engraved, on silver, events from Christ's passage to Calvary. Albrecht's drawing was superior to that usually done in a goldsmith's shop. In his free hours he drew to entertain his companions. After a while he began to feel that he might paint pictures instead of merely drawing designs for metal work. He loved the work and so had the courage to tell his father of his wish to become a painter. The elder Durer was patient with the boy, regretting only that he had lost so much time learning the goldsmith's trade. Albrecht, then only sixteen, was surely young enough to begin his life work! His father put him to study with Wolgemut, the foremost painter of the city, which is not high praise, for the art of painting was then new in the prosperous city of the Pegnitz. Wolgemut was, however, a good engraver on wood and so perhaps was able to direct the young apprentice in quite as valuable a line as painting.
Here Durer remained for three years, until 1490. He was now but nineteen, full of hope and perhaps conscious, to a certain extent, that his was no ordinary skill of hand. He was now ready, according to the custom of his countrymen, for his "wanderschaft" or journeyman period, when he should complete his art education by going abroad to other towns to see their ways and thus improve his own method. For four years he traveled among neighboring towns. The evidence is strong that the last year was spent in Venice. We have little certain knowledge of where he spent these years but we feel quite sure that one of the places he visited was Colmar, where he became acquainted with the artist, Martin Schongauer.
He was called home rather suddenly in 1494 by his father, who had arranged what he thought was an acceptable marriage for his son. A short time before Durer had sent his father a portrait of himself in which he figured as a remarkably handsome and well-dressed young man. It is supposed that the father sent for this portrait to help him along in his arrangements for the marriage of his son. However Albrecht may have felt about the matter of making his marriage merely a business affair, he never expressed himself, but was married shortly after his return to Nuremberg.
Agnes Frey, the woman selected by Durer's father, was a handsome woman of good family with a small fortune of her own. She has come down to us with a most unenviable record as a scold who made life almost unendurable for her husband. It is now quite certain, however, that for all these years she has been grossly misrepresented, simply because her husband's friend Pirkheimer, for small reason, became offended with her. It seems that in his lifetime Durer, who had collected many curious and valuable things, had gathered together some remarkably fine stag-horns. One pair of these especially pleased Pirkheimer. The widow, without knowing Pirkheimer's desire for these, sold them for a small sum and thus brought upon herself the anger of her husband's choleric friend, who wrote a most unkind letter concerning her which has been quoted from that day to this to show how Albrecht Durer suffered in his home. The truth seems really to be that Agnes Durer was as sweet-tempered as the average woman, fond of her husband and a good housekeeper.
The earlier works of Durer are largely wood-cuts, the art which more than any other was the artist's very own. The discussions of the times regarding religious matters made a demand for books even at great cost. It was a time when written and spoken words held people's attention, but when, in addition, the text was illustrated by strong pictures the power and reach of the books were increased ten-fold. A place thus seemed waiting for Albrecht Durer, the master wood-engraver.
His first great series was the Apocalypse— pictures to illustrate the book of Revelation. Such a subject gave Durer ample scope for the use of his imagination. Then came the story of Christ's agony twice engraved in small and large size. These were followed by still another series illustrating the life of Mary. This series was especially popular, for it glorified family life—the family life of the Germans, so worthy, so respected. To be sure, Mary is represented as a German woman tending a dear German child. The kings who come to adore could be found any day on the streets of Nuremberg. The castles and churches that figure in the backgrounds are those of mediæval and renaissance Germany. But this was Durer's method of truth speaking and it appealed strongly to the people of his time as it must to us of to-day.
In 1506, when the last series was not quite completed, Durer went to Venice, perhaps to look after the sale of some of his prints, but more likely because the artist wished to work in the sunshine and art atmosphere of the island city. While away he wrote regularly to his friend Pirkheimer. His letters are exceedingly interesting, as we learn from them much about the art society of the time. Durer was looked upon with favor by the Venetian government but most of the native artists were jealous of the foreigner and not friendly. They complained that his art was like nothing set down as "correct" or "classical" but still they admired it and copied it, too, on the sly.
Gentile Bellini, the founder of the Venetian School, was then a very old man. He was fond of Durer and showed him many kindnesses, not the least of which was praising him to the Venetian nobles. There is a charming story told of Bellini's admiration of Durer's skill in painting hair: One day, after examining carefully the beard of one of the saints in a picture by Durer, he begged him to allow him to use the brush that had done such wonderful work. Durer gladly laid his brushes before Bellini and indicated the one he had used. The Venetian picked it up, made the attempt to use it but failed to produce anything unusual, whereupon Durer took the brush wet with Bellini's own color and painted a lock of woman's hair in so marvelous a way that the old artist declared he would not believe it had he not seen it done.
The most important picture Durer painted while in Venice was the "Madonna of the Rose Garlands." It was painted for the artist's countrymen and is now in a monastery near Prague. Durer evidently valued it highly himself for he writes of it to Pirkheimer, "My panel would give a ducat for you to see it; it is good and beautiful in color. I have got much praise and little profit by it. I have silenced all the painters who said that I was good at engraving but could not manage color. Now everyone says that they have never seen better coloring."
After little more than a year's sojourn in Venice, he returned to Nuremberg. He had been sorely tempted by an offer from the Venetian Council of a permanent pension if he would but remain in their city. But the ties of affection which bound him to his home city drew him back to Nuremberg, even though he had written while in Venice, "How cold I shall be after this sun! Here I am a gentleman," referring indirectly to the smaller place he would occupy at home.
Although Durer studied and enjoyed the works of the Italian masters, there is hardly a trace of the influence of this study in his own works. His mind was too strongly bent in its own direction to be easily turned even by so powerful an influence as Venetian painting. We are grateful indeed for the steadfast purpose of Durer that kept his art pure German instead of diluting it with Italian style so little adapted to harmonize with German thought and method.
On Durer's return to Nuremberg he did some of his best work. He painted one of his greatest pictures at this time, "All Saints." It is crowded with richly dressed figures, while the air above is filled with an angelic host which no one can count. In the center is the Cross on which hangs our suffering Lord. Below, in one corner, is Durer's unmistakable signature, which in this case consists of a full length miniature of himself holding up a tablet on which is this inscription, "Albertus Durer of Nuremberg did it in 1511." After this follows the renowned monogram used by the artist in signing his works after 1496, the "D" enclosed in a large "A" something after this style. He then designed a very beautiful and elaborate frame for this picture to be carved from wood. It was adorned with figures in relief, beautiful vine traceries and architectural ornaments which showed our artist master of still another national art—wood-carving.
It is interesting, too, to know that about this time Durer, finding painting not so lucrative as he had hoped, turned his attention to engraving on all sorts of hard materials, such as ivory and hone-stone. To this period belongs that tiny triumph of his art, the "Degennoph," or gold plate, which contains in a circle of little more than an inch in diameter the whole scene of the Crucifixion carefully represented.
Through his indefatigable labors Durer's circumstances were now greatly improved and so he planned to publish his works, a matter of large expense. Instead of going to some large publishing house, as we to-day do, Durer had a press set up in his own house. We delight in illustrated books to-day, indeed we will hardly have a book without pictures. Imagine then the joy that must have been felt in this time of the scarcity of even printed books to have those that were illustrated. There was ready sale for all the books Durer could print.
Some prints came into Raphael's hands. He wrote a friendly letter to the artist and sent him several of his own drawings. In return Durer sent his own portrait, life size, which Raphael greatly prized and at his death bequeathed to his favorite pupil, Julio Romano.
Durer's prosperity continuing, he purchased the house now known to fame as "Albrecht Durer's House." It is still very much as it was in the artist's lifetime. Here one may study at his leisure the kitchen and living-room which seem as if Durer had just left them.
The artist's reputation was now fully established. In 1509, he was made a member of the Council that governed the city and he was granted the important commission of painting two pictures for the relic chamber in Nuremberg. In this room, which was in a citizen's house, the crown jewels were kept on Easter night, the time of their annual exhibition to the public. Sigismund and Charlemagne were the subjects selected, the former probably because it was he who first gave to Nuremberg the custody of the precious jewels, and the latter because Charlemagne was a favorite hero with the Germans. The Charlemagne is here reproduced. In wonderful jeweled coronation robes, with the coat of arms of France on one side and that of Germany on the other, he is a fine figure well suited to make us feel Durer's power as a painter.
In 1512, there came to Nuremberg a royal visitor, no less a personage than the Emperor Maximilian. This was of greatest importance to Durer to whom two important commissions came as the result of this visit. The Emperor had no settled abode, so his travels were important, at least to himself. He was fond of dictating poems and descriptions of these travels. Durer was asked to make wood-cuts for a book of the Emperor's travels to consist of two parts, the one called The Triumphal Arch and the other The Triumphal Car.
The wood-cuts for the first were made on ninety-two separate blocks which, when put together, formed one immense cut ten and a half feet high by nine feet wide. For this Durer made all the designs which were cut by a skilled workman of the city, Hieronymus Andræ. It was while this work was going forward that the well-known saying, "A cat may look at a king," arose. The Emperor was often at the workshop watching the progress of the work and he was frequently entertained by the pet cats of the wood-cutter who would come in to be with their master.
The designs for The Triumphal Car were of the same general style. In these Durer was assisted by other engravers of the city. One expression of Durer's regarding the ornamentation of the car shows him skilled in the language of the courtier as well as in that of the citizen. He says, "It is adorned, not with gold and precious stones, which are the property of the good and bad alike, but with the virtues which only the really noble possess."
The noted Prayer Book of Maximilian was the other work done for the Emperor. Only three of these are in existence and of course they are almost priceless in value. The text was illustrated by Durer on the margin in pen and ink drawings in different colored inks. Sometimes the artist's fancy is expressed in twining vines and flying birds and butterflies, again it is the kneeling Psalmist listening in rapt attention to some heavenly harpist, or it may be that the crafty fox beguiles the unsuspecting fowls with music from a stolen flute. Thus through almost endless variety of subjects stray the artist's thought and hand.
We have also a fine likeness of Maximilian drawn in strong free lines by Durer at this same time. Seeing how deft the artist was with his crayons, Maximilian took up some pieces which broke in his hand. When asked why it did not do so in the fingers of the artist, Durer made the well known reply, "Gracious Emperor, I would not have your majesty draw as well as myself. I have practised the art and it is my kingdom. Your majesty has other and more difficult work to do."
For all this wonderful work Durer's compensation was little more than the remission of certain taxes by the Nuremberg Council and the promise of a small annual pension. Maximilian's death made it doubtful whether the pension would be paid. Durer in common with others sought out the new Emperor, Charles V., to have the favors granted by his predecessor confirmed.
With this in view, in 1520, the artist with his wife and maid set out for the Netherlands. They were gone something more than a year and a half, during which time Durer kept a strict account of his expenses and of his experiences and impressions throughout the journey. Everywhere he was received with the most marked attention. He was invited to splendid feasts, and was the recipient of all sorts of gifts. In return he gave freely of his own precious works.
He made his headquarters at Antwerp and here he witnessed the entry of the new monarch. The magnificence of the four hundred two-storied arches erected for the occasion impressed Durer deeply. Of the many and varied experiences of the Nuremberger, not the least interesting was his attempt to see a whale that had been cast ashore in Zealand. He made all haste to see this unusual sight and was nearly ship-wrecked in the attempt. The exposure, too, to which he was subjected gave rise to ills which eventually caused his death.
After all his trouble he was disappointed at his journey's end for the whale had been washed away before he arrived. He finally accomplished the object for which he went to the Netherlands. His pension was confirmed and in addition he was named court painter. Ladened with all sorts of curious things which he had collected and with a generous supply of presents for his friends and their wives, he started home where he arrived in due time.
There were but seven years of life left to our painter and these were burdened with broken health. To this period, however, belong some of his most wonderful and characteristic works. The very year of his return he engraved that marvellous "Head of an Old Man," now in Vienna. Never were the striking qualities of age more beautifully put together than in this head.
With about the same time we associate "The Praying Hands," now also in Vienna. How an artist can make hands express the inmost wish of the soul as these do will always remain a mystery even to the most acute. We have the story that they were the clasped hands of Durer's boyhood friend who toiled for years to equal or rival his friend in their chosen work. When, in a test agreed upon, to Durer was given the prize, then Hans, for that was the friend's name, prayed fervently to be resigned to a second place. Durer caught sight of the clasped hands and drew them so well that wherever the name and fame of Albrecht goes there also must go the praying hands of his friend. Whether the story be true we cannot say, but in the hands we have a master work to love.
At this time the new religious doctrine formed the subject of thought everywhere. There was the most minute searching for truth that the world has ever known. Durer, deeply moved by the thought of the time, put its very essence into his works. He was a philosopher and a student of men. He saw how the varied temperaments of men led them to think differently on the great questions of the time. Feeling this keenly, he set to work to represent these various temperaments in pictured forms, a most difficult thing to do as we can easily imagine. Perhaps his own diseased condition led him to select as the first of these "Melancholy," that great brooding shadow that hovers constantly above man, waiting only for the moment when discouragement comes to fall upon and destroy its victim.
How does Durer represent this insidious and fatal enemy? A powerful winged woman sits in despair in the midst of the useless implements of the art of Science. The compass in her nerveless fingers can no longer measure, nor even time in his ceaseless flow explain, the mysteries which crowd upon this well-nigh distraught woman, who it seems must stand for human reason. The sun itself is darkened by the uncanny bat which possibly may stand for doubt and unbelief. Perhaps no one can explain accurately the meaning of this great engraving and therein lies the greatness, which allows each person to interpret it to please himself.
In painting he attempted the same difficult subject of the temperaments, in his four apostles, St. Paul and Mark, St. John and Peter. He painted these without charge as a sort of memorial of himself in his native town. Two saints are painted on each panel. No figures in art are more beautiful than the leading one on each panel, the St. Paul on the one and the St. John on the other. If we interpret these as regards temperament, John is the type of the melancholy, Peter of the phlegmatic, Paul of the choleric and Mark of the sanguine.
In 1526, Durer sent these pictures as a gift to the Council of Nuremberg. It was the artist's wish that they should always remain in the Council hall. Notwithstanding this, only copies are now to be seen in Nuremberg, while the originals are in Munich, carried there by the Elector of Bavaria, who paid a good price for them.
One other of Durer's pictures should be spoken of, though it hardly belongs last in order of time. It is really the summing up of much that he had done from time to time all through his busy life time. This picture, called "The Knight, Death and the Devil," is an engraving on copper. The stern, intelligent men of the time, who were ready to face any danger in order to bear themselves according to their notions of right, are well represented in this splendid mounted knight. What though Death reminds him by the uplifted hour-glass that his life is nearly ended? or that Satan himself stands ready to claim the Knight's soul? There is that in this grand horseman's face that tells of unflinching purpose and indomitable courage to carry it out against the odds of earth and the dark regions besides. One of our greatest art critics says of this work, "I believe I do not exaggerate when I particularize this point as the most important work which the fantastic spirit of German Art has produced." A reading of Fouqué's "Sintram" inspires us anew with the true spirit of Durer's great work.
The gift to his natal city was Durer's last work of note. The sickness that had been growing upon him, which was none other than consumption, gradually absorbed his energies and in April, 1528, he died. He was buried in St. John's Cemetery in the lot belonging to the Frey family. On the flat gravestone was let in a little bronze tablet on which was a simple inscription written by his friend Pirkheimer. A century and a half later Sandrart, the historian of German painters, visited the tomb, then in ruins. He caused it to be repaired and added another inscription which has been translated into English:—
"Rest here, thou Prince of Painters! thou who wast better than great,
In many arts unequaled in the old time or the late.
Earth thou didst paint and garnish, and now in thy new abode
Thou paintest the holy things overhead in the city of God.
And we, as our patron saint, look up to thee, ever will,
And crown with laurel the dust here left with us still."
Durer's character was one of the purest to be found on the honor-list of the world. He bore heavy burdens with patience and was true to his country and to himself in the most distracting of times. He was the father of popular illustration and the originator of illustrated books. He was as many-sided in his genius as Da Vinci and as prolific as Raphael, though along a different line. That he was architect, sculptor, painter, engraver, author and civil engineer proves the former point, while the fact that he left a great number of signed works satisfies us regarding the latter comparison. One who knew him wrote of him in these words,—"If there were in this man anything approaching to a fault it was simply the endless industry and self-criticism which he indulged in, often even to injustice."
In closing this sketch, nothing can so delightfully summarize the beauty of the old town of Nuremberg and the character of its great artist as a part of Longfellow's poem, Nuremberg: